Replays send GAA income soaring to over €60 million
Crowds drop at 2016 championships but gate money goes up
Cillian O'Connor, Conor Fogarty and Maurice Shanahan are heroes in the GAA's finance department, having scored three crucial points which helped swell the coffers by around €5m last year.
It enabled the GAA's Central Council to show gate receipt increases of €3.3m on 2015, despite a five per cent drop in championship attendances.
O'Connor's equalising point in the Mayo-Dublin All-Ireland football final forced a replay which grossed around €4m in gate receipts for a full 82,300 house in Croke Park.
Fogarty shot the levelling point in the Kilkenny-Waterford hurling semi-final, forcing a replay which drew over 30,000 to Semple Stadium.
Shanahan's point from a 90-metre free sent the Waterford-Clare Allianz Hurling League final to a replay, which attracted over 14,000.
The three replays were major contributors to increasing total gate receipts for Central Council competitions (provincial councils retain their own championship gates) from €26.8m in 2015 to €30.1m last year.
Income from other activities, including corporate boxes/ premium level tickets in Croke Park, sponsorship and media, rose too, bringing total income to €60.5m, up from €56.6m in 2015.
It leaves GAA finances in what finance director Tom Ryan described as "a stable and confident position."
Gate receipts increased in all the main competitions. The football league beat 2015 returns by €280,000 while hurling was up by €479,000. Gate revenue accounted for just over 50 per cent of total income.
The replayed football final was the main contributory factor to the income surge in a year when other championship games showed an attendance decrease. Football dropped by seven per cent to 516,767, while hurling fell off by one per cent, down to 269,475.
The average championship attendance was 17,472 per game, down from 19,211 in 2015. That contrasts with an average of 20,172 in 2007, which had the highest overall attendances since the introduction of the football qualifiers in 2001.
Ryan said that the apparent contradiction in a gate receipts increase in a year when overall attendances were down is largely explained by replays and different trends at various stages of the competitions.
"The challenge is to increase attendances - and revenues - in the earlier rounds of the qualifiers. The trend in recent years has been for lower turnouts in Rounds 1 and 2 and increasing reliance on the latter stages.
"This is not sustainable and has an adverse effect on the competitions far beyond the financial," he said.
While replay revenue is a welcome boost to the GAA coffers, Ryan explained that it is not factored into future plans because of the uncertainty as to when the next big income replay will occur.
"Championship final replays (three hurling and one football in the last five seasons) provide a much-needed financial boost and have been a welcome feature of recent Septembers. But we have to make sure that our costs and commitments do not become inflated and are capable of scaling back. That is why we always plan without such windfalls."
Ryan explained that Central Council's €20m contribution to the redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh was advanced in full last year and will be annualised in the accounts over the coming years.
He said that the Cork project would "curtail the amount of capital that we can make available for other projects."
A commitment is already in place to support the redevelopment of Casement Park but grants for other county grounds will be very limited for the foreseeable future.
"We certainly do not need to invest in additional stadium capacity in the overall sense. County ground investment in the coming years will be about maintaining or improving standards, rather than adding to capacity. We also need to address a few key areas in the country that are under-resourced. But the sheer cost involved in even the most modest of projects means that our resources will be severely limited," said Ryan.
Despite taking in over €60m, the surplus runs at €10m, when grants, costs, distribution to various units, administration, plus other activities are taken into account.
A total of €11.4m was allocated for games development, while counties and provinces received over €10.4m. Match-day costs were over €11m, of which €8.4m went on rental for venues.
Team expenses were almost €3m; player welfare accounted for €3.3m while €1m went to an insurance fund. Over €10m went on administration of which €4.1m were staff costs.
Ryan said that investment of €11.4m in games development was "without precedent."
"It was deployed at all levels around the country and internationally to fund development of our games.
"This represents the single biggest coaching investment in any one year and is an increase of €1m over last year (2015)," he said.